Tonka toy leads way to production gains

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A Tonka truck and a mobile phone have helped solve the problem of oversized rocks and the damage they cause to crushing equipment.

Newton Labs, industrial engineering and manufacturing firm based in WA that specialises in inspection, measurement and robotic systems, won the Mitsubishi Corporation Emerging Innovation prize at the WA Innovator of the Year Awards for developing a system that detects oversized rocks when loaded into a haul truck.

Company co-founder Simon Vincent said the prototype was developed at the Unearthed hackathon in May last year, a 54-hour event for inventors and entrepreneurs, in which competitors were challenged to find solutions to real-life mining problems.

“We developed a prototype which involved an iPhone, which has accelerometers built in, and we attached that to a Tonka toy truck—we borrowed my colleague’s daughter’s toy—and we strapped that on a fitness board to simulate suspension,” Vincent said.

“So in front of everyone and the judges, we threw some rocks onto the back of this toy and…sure enough it picked up on the oversize, the lights flashed and that’s how we started.”

Vincent said his team were not previously aware of the extent of the problem of oversized rocks, which cause damage to crushers and production slowdowns when loaded onto trucks.

ScienceNetworkWA said the new detection system was due to be trialled at the Boddington gold mine, and has also been approved for trials at the FMG Solomon mine.

Vincent said Newton Labs was also talking with Rio Tinto, BHP and Hancock Prospecting, and had received marked interest from around the world.

“Quite surprisingly, without any marketing or branding, we’ve been contacted by six mining operations around the world, from Africa to Kazhakstan, Europe, North America and South America as well who experience this problem,” Vincent said.